In a bid to restore the confidence of advertisers, US newspaper companies are expecting stricter controls over the way circulation figures are calculated.

The recent scandals of inflated sales admitted by four well-known dailies topped the agenda at the Audit Bureau of Circulation's conference in Toronto.

ABC chairman Robert Troutbeck is determined to repair the tarnished image both of the industry and his own organization by issuing cash fines and other stiff penalties to newspapers caught embellishing reader numbers. The specifics of the board's deliberations are expected to be announced later this week.

ABC is satisfied the circulation irregularities involving Newsday, Hoy, The Chicago Sun-Times and the Dallas Morning News were isolated incidents rather than the widespread problem at first feared [WAMN: 26-Oct-2004] However, the credibility of ABC figures has taken a beating and advertisers have claimed millions of dollars in compensation.

Says Troutbeck: "Together we will fix the confidence issue. [A small group of] wayward publishers cannot be allowed to undo what we have collectively spent 90 years doing and to jeopardise the non-negotiable trust between buyers and sellers."

Before the conference ABC published a full-page "open letter" in publications such as Advertising Age and The New York Times saying: "ABC's standards are needed more than ever in order to provide media buyers with much needed accountability in an increasingly fragmented media world. It is appropriate, therefore, to restate our unanimous confidence in ABC audited data."

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional information by WARC staff